Barca relief after rare clean sheet in Moscow

Barcelona's 3-0 Champions League victory at Spartak Moscow on Tuesday not only sent them through to the last 16 as Group G winners but also brought a measure of relief that they had come through a match without conceding.

The Spanish club have shipped a surprisingly large number of goals in the first few months of the season, a weakness that will surely need to be corrected if they are to win a third European crown in five years this term.

Injuries to stalwarts Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique have played their part but there have also been errors from the normally reliable Javier Mascherano, and goalkeeper Victor Valdes has looked less assured than in recent campaigns.

Tuesday's game was only their sixth clean sheet in 20 matches in all competitions and they have conceded 15 goals in 12 La Liga outings, already more than half the 29 they let in during the whole of last season.

Centre backs Puyol and Pique are both available again and the latter's commanding presence alongside Mascherano in freezing Moscow on Tuesday brought a solidity to the back line that has been sorely missed.

Right back Daniel Alves, also back after injury, turned in one of his best performances of the season after an indifferent start to the campaign and scored Barca's opening goal with a fine first-time strike.

OWN GOALS

"It's been a while since we kept a clean sheet so we are pleased, above all for Victor [Valdes]," Brazil international Alves told reporters.

"We have been scoring in both goals and today, fortunately, we did it in the right one," he added in reference to a number of own goals Barca have let in this season.

"We have a style of playing that involves everyone in attack and sometimes you leave yourself open," he said.

"But we defended the counter-attacks well. We are leaving feeling satisfied with the team's work and we were very good both offensively and defensively."

Tuesday's dominant performance against the Russians gave coach Tito Vilanova a chance to blood promising youth team forward Gerard Deulofeu, 18, who came on in place of Pedro for the final five minutes.

"I am pleased I got the chance to play and I have to keep working to see if it can happen again," Deulofeu, a Spain Under-21 international and one of 11 graduates from Barca's academy who featured in the match, told reporters.


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